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Come to the Czech Republic and discover the beautiful city of Brno. I just wrapped up my third visit to the city and I can’t wait to come back! The city is full of history, culture, and delicious food.
Here’s my travel guide to Brno!
Getting to Brno #
Brno has an airport, but the flights are limited and sometimes expensive. Some coworkers have found good deals on these flights (especially via Ryanair from London’s Stansted Airport), but I prefer the train.
I prefer to fly into Vienna, Austria and catch the Regiojet train from Vienna’s main train station (Hauptbanhof, or Hbf.) to Brno’s main train station (hlavní nádraží). The train is usually €10 or less and it takes about 90 minutes. You can get snacks or a full meal on the train. They also have beer, wine, and coffee (the coffee is free!). They take credit cards on the train for anything you buy.
The only downside of the Regiojet train is that you will need to take a train from Vienna’s airport train station (Flughafen) to Vienna’s main train station (Wien Hauptbanhof). It’s a quick 15 minute trip that costs €5 or less.
There is also an ÖBB Railjet train that leaves directly from Vienna’s airport train station (Flughafen Hbf.). It’s convenient since you don’t need to take a train from the airport to the main train station, but it usually costs €20 or more.
Getting around Brno #
Brno has an extensive tram, bus, and train system that runs 24 hours a day. You have plenty of options for getting tickets for trams and buses:
- At most stops, you can get a 24 hour ticket with coins (more on money later)
- The main train station has passes for multiple days (5 days, 14 days, and longer)
- Purchase tickets on BrnoID and attach the ticket to a contactless credit or debit card
- Some buses and trams have a contactless card terminal on them (but don’t count on it being there)
- Send SMS to buy tickets (see signs at stops, requires Czech phone number)
Don’t get on without a valid ticket! When they check for tickets (and they do!), you could get hit with a fine of €15-€40. That’s downright silly when a two week ticket is usually around €11.
Buying tickets in Brno’s main train station is generally easy, but it costs more than using BrnoID.
As for tram and bus etiquette, I’ve learned a few things:
- Try move away from the doors when you board (sometimes this is difficult when it’s crowded)
- Make room for people in wheelchairs and with baby carriages in the doorway areas
- Offer up your seat to the elderly or to people who really need to sit down
- Make your way towards the door early and press the green button on the poles near the door when you want to get off
- If you ride in the late evening or night time, you may hear na znamení – if you do, then it means your stop will be skipped if you don’t push the button to get off (pay attention!)
- When you want to board the train, be sure to push the buttons next to the doors on the outside of the tram so they open (no need to do this at the big stops like the main train station or Česka since all of the doors open anyway)
- The cars in the rear of the trams seem to be the least crowded
If you only remember one thing, remember this: trams always have the right of way. As my coworker in Brno says “cars stop, trams do not”. Do not assume that the trams will stop in front of you, even at stations. Stay out of the way until the tram has fully passed you or fully stopped.
The trams stop just before 11PM, so be sure to check the schedules or Google Maps prior to heading out at night time. The night buses run all night long but there are some long gaps between stops late at night. The night buses are quite lively, so please don’t get distracted and forget about my na znamení note above. 😀
Speaking Czech #
I’m an American who speaks English and limited Spanish, and Czech is a difficult language for me. There are sounds in Czech that are totally new to you and they will take a lot of practice before you get them right. However, Czech people are really pleased when you make an attempt to speak some Czech, so it’s worth knowing a few things:
- dobrý den: good day
- dobré ráno: good morning
- ahoj: hello (and goodbye) for a friend, someone you know (sounds like “ahoy!”)
- děkuji: thank you
- prosím: please, can I help you, here you go, casual version of “you’re welcome”
- nemáš zač: you’re welcome (more formal)
- pivo: beer (follow with prosím)
- vino: wine (just like Spanish!)
If these look difficult, do your best to work on dobrý den and děkuji. In my experience, most people I met would put on a big smile when they heard me try some basic Czech. One of the workers at my hotel saw me every morning and after a few days of me saying “dobrý den” to her before breakfast, she finally said “getting better, good job!” 🤗
The vowels in Czech are almost exactly the same as Spanish (including accented ones). If you see a consonant with a hat, like č, add an h after it. A č sounds like ch in chair. A š sounds like sh in shut.
If you see a hat on a vowel, like ě, try to mix in a y sound like in yarn. These are difficult.
I’m told the most difficult letter is the ř. It’s a sound we don’t have in Latin languages. I seem to get better at it after a few beers.
A friend in Brno told me that you speak Czech like you care a lot about the first syllable and you don’t care about the others. Put most of your emphasis on the early part of the word and avoid doing that in the middle and end.
Food and drinks #
You had better come hungry (and thirsty) because the food here is delicious. Brno has plenty of delicious meats, vegetables, pastries, beer, and wine. Being vegetarian or vegan in Brno isn’t exactly easy, but it’s entirely possible.
My absolute favorite items are bramboraky (thick potato pancakes), trdelník (cake made on a spit), and kolače (round pastry with plum in the middle). Czech people also love cheesecake because you can find it everywhere. Meat dishes like pork knee, rump steak, and beef goulash are top notch.
As for drinks, pilsner beer is really popular. You can find beers like Starobrno and Pilsner Urquell everywhere, but I’d encourage you to look for some other beers like Chotěboř (it’s a tough one to say). There are lots of microbrweries all over town.
Wine in Brno is delicious. Moravia (southern Czech Republic) is full of wineries and they extend into Sloviakia and Croatia. If you enjoy red wine, you are in for a treat. Try a local Cabernet or Frankovka. Even the Merlot wine here tastes amazing. As for white wines, my favorite is the Pálava
If you tire of Czech food, Brno has excellent food from around the world, especially Indian, Italian, and Thai food.
Breakfasts include lots of familiar foods, including eggs, bacon, beans, fruit, pastries, coffee, and tea. Filtered coffee (American-style) is hard to come by, but you can order an americano at most coffee shops even if it’s not on the menu. Try a good espresso at least once. You can finish it fast and you get a good jolt in a few minutes.
I’ve felt safer in Brno than in some cities in Texas. As with any big city, travel with groups when you can and be sure you know where you’re going before you go. Czech people try to keep to themselves on streets and public transportation, so if you’re minding your own business, you are most likely never going to be bothered.
The Czechs use Koruna (“crowns” in English). Amounts are usually shown in full units (no cents like with US dollars) and there are coins for 50 CZK and lower. The bills start at 100 CZK.
I recommend using an ATM when you arrive since you’ll get the best rate. However, stay away from the ATMs that are very close to the train station. I’ve seen fees as high as €10 at ATMs near the station! The city center is a few blocks away with plenty of ATMs with little or no fees.
As with most of Europe, cards are widely accepted. Chip cards are required and contactless cards are really helpful. Most payment terminals will allow you to pay with a quick tap of your contactless card and it’s quite handy. American cards still require a signature and you may find that Czech people are stunned when their payment terminal demands that they collect a signature from you.
Before you travel, be sure to let your credit and debit card companies know about your travel so that you won’t trigger fraud alerts.
I’ve probably missed a lot of things in this post, but these are the things that come to mind right now. Thanks for reading the post and I hope you get to enjoy a trip to Brno soon!